Tag Archives: Christmas

Gravy and tears

Back in 1997 I spent Christmas in New York, a city with a real festive magic to it. There was the Empire State building lit up in red and green, the Macy’s decorations, a cappella carolers in subway stations, clumps of dirty grey snow in gutters… and me, homesick as all get out.

In our tiny apartment I put on a CD of Australian artists singing Christmas songs. When the Paul Kelly track below came on, I cried. My wife did too. It is a superb piece of storytelling and I still shiver when I hear it.

Christmas can be a time when we grieve for absent family and friends and regret moments gone by. This song says all that and more.

I wish all my readers, friends and family a Christmas that brings peace of mind and a pause from the crazy pace of life. Thanks for listening to me vent and ramble throughout 2009. I’m going to stop by the side of the Thunder Road for a while and listen to the waves.

Late. Christmas.

Charge around the corner of the science building, scurrying for first class. Bounce off bank of lockers. Pant, “Hi” at Ms Heinrichs, having long mastered the art of the breathless greeting or sheepish, mid-sprint ‘sorry’. When you’re as punctuality impaired as me, you don’t-can’t-won’t ease off the accelerator, even in the last week of term.

Not for anyone. Or anything. Not until you’re… wherever-you-should-have-been-earlier.

Ms Heinrichs checks her watch, raises an eyebrow and waves back with a smirk. Several of my fellow educators reckon the school day doesn’t begin until Mr West puffs past their classroom window. Entrepreneurial commerce students run a sweep on my exact arrival time.

Ricochet off brick pillar at corner of courtyard. Narrowly miss Courtney and Ash breaking suction from their first pash of the day. Pray my laptop survived the impact – need it next class. Must ask IT if new MacBook comes with airbags and ABS.

Hate this last length down the courtyard. Sun glare. Bugger all warning of what I’m about to hit. Unless. Dammit. Unless…

That oxen silhouette.

Only one member of staff can paralyse me mid-stride or curdle my mid-morning cuppa.


She lumbers into the sunlight, her aura of self-loathing enough to kill insects within a one metre radius.

Will. To. Live. Falters.

Mona, toxic waste dump of a woman. Crossing her path triggers my gag reflex … not the substandard humour one. Don’t know whether to heave, cry, pity her or punch someone. Not my fault she was dumped as head of department. Didn’t actively seek to step into her sack-like shoes. Didn’t even see that promotion coming. Or the grudge that came with it as ballast to my every initiative here.

Ease pace. Grapple for reverse gear. Consider doubling back to the stairwell, climbing to level one, circling around the balcony and dashing down to ground level to circumnavigate her. Shit. Eye contact at 20 paces.

No. Time. To. Veer.

“Late again, Mr West,” she metastasises. “Poor example from a head of department.”

She’s vile. Bile wriggles up my throat, pre-empting my next move.




Hit her with a hug, spinning her on the spot.

Puff: “MerryChristmasMona.” Surprised to realise I mean every word.

Keep running.